Royal Darwin Hospital (RDH)
Royal Darwin Hospital (RDH)

Meningococcal W strain hits the Top End, killing one

A WOMAN from a remote Top End community near Darwin has died after contracting meningococcal W.

The middle-aged woman, who was living in both Darwin and the remote community, became unwell on July 31 and was flown to Royal Darwin Hospital but passed away on August 2.

A second woman, in her 20s and living in the urban Darwin area, was also diagnosed with the disease last week but has since recovered and been discharged.

The cases are not believed to be related.

Centre for Disease Control director Vicki Krause said appropriate public health action had been taken in both cases.

"These sporadic cases have had their contacts traced and given antibiotics and now we'll give them the vaccine," Dr Krause said.

"We will now also be looking at these cases that are in the Darwin region to look at the implications of these two cases."

Dr Krause said it was crucial the fast-moving disease was treated quickly but stopped short of saying people in remote communities, far from hospitals, were more at risk.

"Meningococcal is a rare disease and it's something that people have to recognise the signs and symptoms early," she said.

"It's really important to get antibiotics early … because the disease can progress quickly."

Dr Krause said while the disease moved quickly and people should always be aware, the CDC did not believe others in Darwin were at risk.

"The disease is actually quite difficult to acquire, it's not easily spread. It's spread by air droplets when people have had intense contact over several days and several hours - close contact," she said.

The meningococcal ACWY vaccination is included in the immunisation schedule for all children at 12 months and 75 per cent of all children have received the vaccine.

It is also available, free, to young people up until age 19 everywhere except in Darwin.

Symptoms of meningococcal include fever, headache, neck stiffness, an aversion to bright lights, a rash and joint pain.

If you notice these symptoms in yourself or a family member, contact your GP immediately.